With renewed vigour after yesterday’s gruelling stage, Monster Energy Honda Team riders once again went for broke on a tough stage. Nacho Cornejo and Ricky Brabec stood out at the end of the special, with Barreda and Quintanilla opening the track.
The first of the two looping routes in Riyadh got underway today, where – for the first time in Dakar history – the motorcycle riders rode the entire stage completely autonomously from the car and truck categories. The fifth stage of the rally was battled out over a 346-kilometre special stage, covering hard and stony ground and including, towards the end of the day, a 50-kilometre stretch of dunes.
José Ignacio Cornejo’s riding had significantly improved from the previous days and this was reflected in the results. An error-free stage, with speed and deft navigation saw the rider reach the end of the special with the day’s second best time for a RallyGP rider, at 0’03 from the stage winner and leapfrogging two positions up the general standings.
Behind the young Chilean, American rider Ricky Brabec also turned out a satisfactory showing. The Monster Energy Honda Team rider, third on the RallyGP day class, was able to claw back several minutes from his closest rivals and, furthermore, regain the good sensations. Brabec finished 1’30” behind the day’s winner and moves up one position in the rankings. Pablo Quintanilla and Joan Barreda were lumbered with the troublesome task of opening the track this morning in the middle of a sandstorm. At the end of the interrupted stage, race authorities are still weighing up different options on how to classify the riders who had finished and to decide what to do with the rest of the riders involved. Quintanilla and Barreda were, nonetheless, able to make it through to the end of the special. Quintanilla and Barreda both remain in contention for the overall race victory. However, Joan suffered a fall and the Spaniard is still unsure whether he will be 100% fit to battle for another stage win. In tomorrow’s stage, the Chilean and the Spaniard will start from behind and will attempt to make up the time dropped today.
The final stage of this first week of the Dakar takes place tomorrow. A second loop to the capital of the country north-west of Riyadh will once again put the riders to the test with 402 kilometres of timed special stage. It will be physically demanding given that it is the same route completed by the car and truck drivers the previous day, so riders can expect churned up, rutted conditions with dust, sand and hidden stones. In the dunes, the many lines will force riders to be particularly attentive to the navigation. At the start, there will be several track crossings and, towards the middle of the special, some forty kilometres of dunes before the fast tracks that will wrap up the day. The bike odometers will be registering 618 kilometres by the time the bikers make it back to the bivouac in Riyadh.
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